Eastern Economic Journal

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 242–259 | Cite as

The Consequences of Social Pressures on Partisan Opinion Dynamics

  • Shyam Gouri Suresh
  • Scott Jeffrey
Original Article


We simulate an agent-based model of opinion dynamics in a two-party framework to analyze party- and polity-wide consequences of social pressures that compel individuals to publicly conform to their party line. The model indicates that opinions polarize over time despite being initialized uniformly across most members of both parties. Further, the socially acceptable range of opinions in each party and the level of partisanship prevalent in the polity play an important role in determining the membership sizes of both parties, the median opinions of both parties and the polity, and the level of polarization within and across parties.


Overton Window opinion dynamics political polarization partisanship 


D70 C63 



The authors wish to thank conference participants at the agent-based sessions of the Eastern Economic Association Conference in 2014 for valuable suggestions.


  1. Acemoglu, Daron, Giacomo Como, Fabio Fagnani, and Asuman Ozdaglar. 2013. Opinion Fluctuations and Disagreement in Social Networks. Mathematics of Operations Research, 38(1): 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Acemoglu, Daron, and Asuman Ozdaglar. 2011. Opinion Dynamics and Learning in Social Networks. Dynamics Games and Applications, 1(1): 3–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Acerbi, Alberto, Magnus Enquist, and Stefano Ghirlanda. 2009. Cultural Evolution and Individual Development of Openness and Conservatism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106(45): 18931–18935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brulle, Robert J., Jason Carmichael, and J. Craig Jenkins. 2012. Shifting Public Opinion on Climate Change: An Empirical Assessment of Factors Influencing Concern over Climate Change in the U.S., 2002–2010. Climatic Change, 114(2): 169–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carmines, Edward G., and James A. Stimson. 1986. On the Structure and Sequence of Issue Evolution. The American Political Science Review, 80(3): 901–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carsey, Thomas M., and Geoffrey C. Layman. 2006. Changing Sides or Changing Minds? Party Identification and Policy Preferences in the American Electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 50(2): 464–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deffuant, Guillaume, Frédéric Amblard, Gérard Weisbuch, and Thierry Faure. 2002. How Can Extremism Prevail? A Study Based on the Relative Agreement Interaction Model. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 5(4): 1.Google Scholar
  8. Deffuant, Guillaume, David Neau, Frédéric Amblard, and Gérard Weisbuch. 2000. Mixing Beliefs among Interacting Agents. Advances in Complex Systems, 3(1): 87–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deffuant, Guillaume, Gérard Weisbuch, Frédéric Amblard, and Thierry Faure. 2013. The Results of Meadows and Cliff Are Wrong Because They Compute Indicator Y before Model Convergence. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 16(1): 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Degroot, Morris H. 1974. Reaching a Consensus. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 69(345): 118–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeMarzo, Peter M., Dimitri Vayanos, and Jeffrey Zwiebel. 2003. Persuasion Bias, Social Influence and Unidimensional Opinions. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(3): 909–968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DiMaggio, Paul, John H. Evans, and Bethany Bryson. 1996. Have American’s Social Attitudes Become More Polarized? American Journal of Sociology, 102(2): 690–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dimock, Michael, Carroll Doherty, and Jocelyn Kiley. 2013. Growing Support for Gay Marriage: Changed Minds and Changing Demographics. Pew Research Center, (accessed December 27, 2015).
  14. Dimock, Michael, Carroll Doherty, Jocelyn Kiley, and Russ Oates. 2014. Political Polarization in The American Public: How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life. Pew Research Center, (accessed December 27, 2015).
  15. Dunlap, Riley E., and Aaron M. McCright. 2008. A Widening Gap: Republican and Democratic Views on Climate Change. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, 50(5): 26–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Esteban, Joan-María, and Debraj Ray. 1994. On the Measurement of Polarization. Econometrica, 62(4): 819–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Esteban, Joan-María, and Debraj Ray. 2012. Comparing Polarization Measures. in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Peace and Conflict, edited by Michelle Garfinkel and Stergios Skaperdas New York: Oxford University Press, 127–151.Google Scholar
  18. Evans, John H. 2003. Have American’s Attitudes Become More Polarized? — An Update. Social Science Quarterly, 84(1): 71–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Freeman, Jonathan B., and Rick Dale. 2013. Assessing Bimodality to Detect the Presence of a Dual Cognitive Process. Behavior Research Methods, 45(1): 83–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frey, Dieter. 1986. Recent Research on Selective Exposure to Information. in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology: Volume 19. edited by Leonard Berkowitz Orlando: Academic Press, 41–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Glynn, Carroll, Andrew F. Hayes, and James Shanahan. 1997. Perceived Support for One’s Opinions and Willingness to Speak Out: A Meta-Analysis of Survey Studies on the “Spiral of Silence”. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 61(3): 452–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hegselmann, Rainer, and Ulrich Krause. 2002. Opinion Dynamics and Bounded Confidence Models, Analysis, and Simulation. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 5(3): 2.Google Scholar
  23. Huang, Chung-Yuan, and Tzai-Hung Wen. 2014. A Novel Private Attitude and Public Opinion Dynamics Model for Simulating Pluralistic Ignorance and Minority Influence. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 17(3): 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Katz, Daniel, Margaret B. Jenness, and H. Allport Floyd. 1931. Students’ Attitudes, a Report of the Syracuse University Reaction Study. Syracuse, NY: The Craftsman Press.Google Scholar
  25. Knapp, Thomas R. 2007. Bimodality Revisited. Journal of Modern Applied Statistical Methods, 6(1): 8–20.Google Scholar
  26. Kuran, Timur. 1987a. Chameleon Voters and Public Choice. Public Choice, 53(1): 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kuran, Timur. 1987b. Preference Falsification, Policy Continuity and Collective Conservatism. The Economic Journal, 97(387): 642–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kuran, Timur. 1991. The East European Revolution of 1989: Is It Surprising That We Were Surprised? The American Economic Review, 81(2): 121–125.Google Scholar
  29. Krause, Ulrich. 2000. A discrete nonlinear and non-autonomous model of consensus formation. in Communications in Difference Equations. edited by S. Elaydi, G. Ladas, J. Popenda and J. Rakowski Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Publishers, 227–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lebo, Matthew J., Adam J. McGlynn, and Gregory Koger. 2007. Strategic Party Government: Party Influence in Congress, 1789–2000. American Journal of Political Science, 51(3): 464–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lehman, Joseph. 2014. A Brief Explanation of the Overton Window. Mackinac Center, (accessed December 27, 2015).
  32. Matthes, Jörg, Kimberly R. Morrison, and Christian Schemer. 2010. A Spiral of Silence for Some: Attitude Certainty and the Expression of Political Minority Opinions. Communication Research, 37(6): 774–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meadows, Michael, and Dave Cliff. 2012. Reexamining the Relative Agreement Model of Opinion Dynamics. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 15(4): 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Noel, Hansel. 2013. Political Ideologies and Political Parties in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth. 1974. The Spiral of Silence: A Theory of Public Opinion. Journal of Communication, 24(2): 43–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Gorman, Hubert J. 1986. The Discovery of Pluralistic Ignorance: An Ironic Lesson. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 22(4): 333–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Peters, Jeremy W., and Carl Hulse. 2014. Republicans’ First Step Was to Handle Extremists in Party. The New York Times (November 5): A-1.Google Scholar
  38. Pfister, Roland, Katharina A. Schwarz, Markus Janczyk, Rick Dale, and Jonathan B. Freeman. 2013. Good Things Peak in Pairs: A Note on the Bimodality Coefficient. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 700.Google Scholar
  39. Ravazzolo, Francesco, and Øistein Røisland. 2011. Why Do People Place Lower Weight on Advice Far from Their Own Initial Opinion? Economics Letters, 112(1): 63–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sobkowicz, Pawel. 2009. Modelling Opinion Formation with Physics Tools: Call for Closer Link with Reality. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 12(1): 11.Google Scholar
  41. Taylor, D. Garth. 1982. Pluralistic Ignorance and the Spiral of Silence: A Formal Analysis. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 46(3): 311–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhang, Xiaobo, and Ravi Kanbur. 2001. What Difference Do Polarisation Measures Make? An Application to China. The Journal of Development Studies, 37(3): 85–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© EEA 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shyam Gouri Suresh
    • 1
  • Scott Jeffrey
    • 2
  1. 1.Davidson CollegeDavidsonUSA
  2. 2.Federal Reserve Bank of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations